The Teamsters Union has imposed the UPS Inc. small-package contract on all 235,000 unionized UPS employees despite repeated objections by several Teamster locals, including the largest in the UPS system.
The move, disclosed in a memo dated yesterday, is considered unprecedented in the 111-year history of the Teamsters, according to Ken Paff, national organizer of the Teamsters For a Democratic Union (TDU), a Teamster dissident group. Never before have Teamster leaders overridden the sentiments of some of its rank and file and agreed to impose a collective-bargaining agreement, Paff said.
In late March, DC Velocity reported comments from TDU that union leaders were mulling a plan to impose the five-year contract by effectively stripping members of the recalcitrant locals of the right to vote on supplements and riders to the UPS master contract. Although a five-year contract was ratified last June, it has not taken effect because all locals had not ratified their respective riders and supplements. Supplements cover such issues as health care benefits, part-time wages, and the number of new jobs that can be created.
The union won the right in its 1991 contract with UPS to vote on all supplements and riders. Prior to that, the master contract and all supplements and riders were voted on at one time nationwide.
Yesterday's move came almost two weeks after members of Local 89 in Louisville, Ky., which represents workers at UPS global air hub known as "Worldport," rejected its contract supplement by a vote of 2,804 to 185. The local had already overwhelmingly rejected the master contract, and the April 10 vote marked the second time it rejected its supplement. With about 9,300 members, the local is the largest in the UPS system.
Besides Louisville, locals in Philadelphia and western Pennsylvania have rejected their respective supplements.
About 95 percent of UPS' unionized small-package workers have voted to approve their supplemental agreements, the Teamsters National Negotiating Committee said in the memo. The actions by the three locals are holding up the payment of about $300 million in unpaid wages and benefit contributions from UPS, the committee said.
In its memo, the committee said it could declare a contract to be in force if members are repeatedly rejecting a supplement or rider based on language already ratified as part of the national agreement. According to the committee, the main sticking point has been a shift in UPS' health insurance, an issue that had already been voted on and ratified as part of the master contract.
The three supplements take effect tomorrow, while the switch to the new health insurance becomes effective June 1, the committee said. The supplements represent UPS' best and final offers to the locals, the committee said.
However, in a statement last night, Local 89 officials said "many unresolved issues" remain besides the concerns over health coverage. Those issues include how many full-time jobs can be created, employee disability, and UPS' subcontracting policies, among others.
The statement blasted Ken Hall, the Teamsters' vice chairman and head of the committee negotiating the small-package agreement, for "selling out thousands of [his] fellow Teamsters" and for groveling "for table scraps of [his] corporate master, UPS." The local, which has been vocal in its displeasure over Hall's efforts, said he has "catastrophically failed in his duty to the membership" by mishandling contract negotiations and for failing to protect the members' right to strike.
Teamster officials declined comment. UPS, which at the time labeled the late March story in DC Velocityas "speculative," was unavailable to comment.
In March, Local 89 filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against UPS for unfair labor practices and "regressive" bargaining. The local said that UPS has reneged on contract provisions that both sides had already agreed upon.
Besides the locals in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, contracts covering 15,000 UPS Teamsters at two locals in Chicago and northern Indiana remain open. These contracts are separate from the national agreement, TDU said.Issues: UPS
A national Conference Call will be held on Saturday to discuss the imposition of the UPS contract by Hoffa and Hall, including concessionary supplements and riders that were overwhelmingly rejected by Teamster members.
All Teamster activists -- not just UPS Teamsters -- who oppose concessions and support our right to vote on our contracts and supplements is invited to join this important Conference Call.
The Conference Call will be held on Saturday, April 27 at 11 am Eastern / 10 am Central / 9 am Mountain / 8 am Western.
You must call and register to participate on the call. Click here to register and you will be sent the call-in number and conference call code.
If you are having trouble registering, email info [at] tdu [dot] org with your name, local, email and phone number and we will send you the call-in number and conference call code.Issues: UPS
UPS Inc. reported lower first-quarter income from a year ago, citing severe weather and higher expenses.
The parcel delivery company’s net income declined to $911 million, or 98 cents a share, from $1.04 billion, or $1.08, a year ago.
Revenue rose 2.6% to $13.8 billion and operating expenses rose 3.5% to $12.3 billion.
“Much of the U.S. economy was negatively affected by the severe weather conditions in the first quarter,” which resulted in lower operating results, Chairman and CEO Scott Davis said in a statement.
The UPS supply chain and freight unit’s operating profit rose 3.5% to $148 million, led by gains in its forwarding and distribution units.
Less-than-truckload unit UPS Freight’s revenue rose slightly on a 3.1% increase in LTL revenue per hundredweight, although tonnage and operating profit were lower, also due to severe winter weather.
Domestic package operating profit slipped 14.6% to $927 million. Revenue rose 2.6% to $8.5 billion, and daily volume improved 4.2%, led by UPS SurePost and UPS Second Day Air.
International package operating profit growth was 24% to $438 million. The prior-year period reflected a $39 million charge due to its attempted acquisition of TNT. International segment revenue rose 5% to $3.13 billion.
UPS is “encouraged by the positive trends in our business and expects the remainder of the year to perform as we originally guided,” Chief Financial Officer Kurt Kuehn said in a statement.
But Kuehn added that “due to the challenging start” of the year, the company is forecasting its full-year earnings per share to be $5.05 to $5.30, at the low end of its forecast range.
UPS is ranked No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.Issues: UPS
April 24, 2014: One day after the International Union announced it is imposing concessions on 13,000 UPS Teamsters, the company announced it made first quarter profits of $911 million.
Brown cashed in nearly a billion dollars despite severe winter storms that lowered the company’s operating profit by $200 million. Without the freak weather, UPS’s earnings would have easily surpassed last year’s first quarter profits of $1 billion.
The company projects profits for the year between $4.7 billion and $5 billion.
UPS’s revenue continued to climb, rising by 2.6% over the first quarter last year to $13.8 billion. Average package volume also continues to grow.
UPS Freight profits are up even though volume is down.
Working Teamsters continue to be the driving force behind massive company profits. The money is there to win better contracts at UPS and UPS Freight. What’s lacking is leadership at the International Union that knows how to do it.UPS
The national union representing United Parcel Service Inc. employees overrode three local bargaining units that had delayed approving parts of a five-year national contract with the delivery company.
The unusual move, described Wednesday in an internal memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, took local union leaders by surprise. The Teamsters union said the UPS national negotiating committee "voted overwhelmingly" to declare the new contract in effect.
This decision superseded rejections by three locals of parts of the national contract, known as riders or supplements, that address issues such as wages for part-time employees, pension contributions and overtime restrictions.
"UPS has not been officially notified by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters on this issue. We are not able to comment further," a spokesman for UPS said.
UPS has been working to implement a five-year master contract that was approved in June by a majority of the Atlanta-based company's domestic package-delivery employees. But the contract wasn't supposed to take effect until local unions resolved all outstanding supplements and riders.
The national Teamsters' decision comes at a time when UPS has publicly struggled with labor relations. Earlier this month it was forced to rehire about 250 New York-based drivers it fired after they walked off the job in protest of what they said was unfair treatment of a fellow driver. Labor negotiations with the locals had dragged on months longer than expected.
"The reaction [from UPS union members] is enormously hateful," said Ken Paff, head of splinter group Teamsters for a Democratic Union. "You're robbing these people of their right to vote." He said that the faction is weighing challenging the decision in court.
The move to approve the contract is unusual, labor lawyers agreed, but sharply declining union membership over the years has put more pressures on union officials to agree to pension and health-care benefits that their members often resist.
While a national union "certainly has the right" to override locals in certain circumstances, there can be a downside for the union, said Michael Lotito, a San Francisco-based attorney who represents employers and who co-chairs law firm Littler Mendelson's Workplace Policy Institute. "It undercuts the authority and prestige of the local" and can contradict the national union's messaging that the local controls its own destiny, he said.
Union membership numbers have declined sharply over many years and were stagnant in 2013. Union officials are also under pressure to agree to pension and healthcare benefits that their members often resist.
In the memo, the national committee said it had the authority to implement the contract if locals were rejecting it on the basis of language that had been approved. The memo said the three locals that had rejected their riders and supplements did so based on changes to the employees' health-care benefits—something that had already been decided in the national contract.
"Ninety-five percent of our UPS members have already voted to approve their agreements, and UPS currently owes Teamster members and our funds more than $300 million in wages and contributions," the national negotiating committee said in the memo. UPS has agreed to expedite these payments, the union said.
The agreement becomes effective Friday, and changes to health care will take effect June 1.
Teamsters Local 89, which represents about 8,000 UPS employees at the company's air hub in Louisville, Ky., overwhelmingly voted down its rider twice, and it's "flat-out untrue" that health care was the sticking point, said that local's president, Fred Zuckerman. A third rejection might have authorized the employees to strike, he said, adding that the decision took him by surprise. The local will try to determine if it can contest the decision.
"This is just a disaster for the membership," he added. Negotiations have "been a game right from the beginning."
The Louisville local was pressing UPS to take measures to help workers get from the parking lot to their areas of work at the Worldport air hub more quickly, including deploying more shuttles and metal detectors, Mr. Zuckerman said. He also said his local's latest rejection of the contract had been prompted by the company's removal of a pension-contribution increase for some workers.Issues: UPS
April 23, 3014: Hoffa and Hall have implemented the UPS contract, including concessionary supplements and riders that were overwhelmingly rejected by Teamster members.
According to an International Union memorandum, the UPS contract, including all supplements and riders, will go into effect on April 25 and the new Teamcare health coverage will take effect on June 1.
In the memorandum, the National Negotiating Committee repeats Ken Hall’s cover story: that the only issue holding up the rejected supplements is TeamCare. This is just a lie.
The Louisville Air Rider was rejected by a 94% No Vote because UPS’s second offer was even worse than its first offer and left unaddressed a whole series of pressing local issues: from members being forced to work off the clock to full-time jobs. (See Why Did Louisville Vote No?)
Of course, it is true that members in Louisville, Philadelphia, and Western Pa opposed cuts in health benefits, but that was just one of several issues at stake.
The International Union could easily have settled the supplements by telling UPS to bargain over the outstanding local issues. Instead, Hoffa and Hall have sided with the company and forced through concessions as political payback against the leadership of Louisville Local 89 and Vote No Teamsters.
Led by TDU, Teamster members fought for and won the Right to Vote on supplements and riders at the 1991 IBT Constitutional Convention to stop employers from imposing concessions in supplements and riders by pushing through a contract nationally.
Now Hoffa and Hall have overridden members’ Right to Vote. They claim that Article 12 of the IBT Constitution gives them the right to do it. That is a another lie. Article 12 has no such language.
Want to fight back against those who steal members’ rights? Join TDU.Issues: UPS
A new report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows that taxpayers in the United States subsidize Walmart and the Walton family, who owns the majority of Walmart stock and is the richest family in the country, by at least $7.8 billion annually. The report, Walmart on Tax Day: How Taxpayers Subsidize America's Biggest Employer and Richest Family, was released in conjunction with tax day, when millions of Americans and small businesses do their civic duty and pay their fair share to support the economy and services critical to many Americans. At the same time, the report shows, taxpayers help pad Walmart and the Walton family's profits.
The report makes it very clear that not only do Walmart and the Waltons not need these subsidies, but that the company could more than afford to raise salaries and improve benefits for their workers, more than half of whom made less than $25,000 last year.
Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees. The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion. The Walton family, who owns more than 50 percent of Walmart shares, reaps billions in annual dividends from the company. The six Walton heirs are the wealthiest family in America, with a net worth of $148.8 billion. Collectively, these six Waltons have more wealth than 49 million American families combined.
The tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies that Walmart gets, more than $7.8 billion every year, are enough to hire 105,000 new public school teachers, notes Americans for Tax Fairness. An estimated $6.2 billion of that money comes from food stamps, health care and other taxpayer-funded programs that Walmart employees are eligible for because their salaries are so low. Another $1 billion is derived from tax breaks and loopholes Walmart uses to avoid paying its full tax burden. The Walton family avoided paying an estimated $607 million because much of their compensation is derived from dividends, which are taxed at a lower rate than salaries. Other tax avoidance methods Walmart engages in comes from economic development subsidies from state and local governments.
Furthermore, the report estimates that the Walton family avoids paying another $3 billion in taxes by dodging estate taxes. Taxpayer funds further benefit the company from customers who don't work for the corporation but spend food stamp money there, with an estimate of $13.5 billion in sales last year.
Read the full report.
Those who feel that Walmart and the Walton family owe America can sign a petition sponsored by the Americans for Tax Fairness, Making Change at Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.
Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?
This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009.REHEARSAL
In the face of aggressive management and worsening working conditions, and dissatisfied with the response of their union, Teamsters Local 597, some drivers began to meet as the Sunday Morning Breakfast Club. They reached out to Teamsters for a Democratic Union in 2009 as they were getting ready for contract negotiations.
Through TDU they held workshops on member-to-member organizing and contract campaigns.
According to driver Jim Fouts, “When I first came here the union was weak, because it was a business-as-usual union. Then some activists started saying, ‘This is wrong. We can vote on things. This is supposed to be a democracy.’ And really it was a bottom-up movement to change our union.”
Their first success was winning the right to elect stewards and participating as equals with the Teamsters business agent on the bargaining team.
Members didn’t win the contract they wanted the first time, but they got organized, gained experience, broadened their leadership team, and built relationships with other labor activists and the Vermont Workers Center. That was the rehearsal for the current struggle, where rank-and-file organizing and community outreach came together in a big way.
By 2014 years of harassment by the Chittenden County Transit Authority (CCTA), forced-overtime shift spreads of up to 15 hours (where drivers work in the morning and afternoon-evening with unpaid hours in between), and the threat of replacing full-time jobs with part-time ones had created a toxic work environment. Drivers said the fatiguing long shifts were unsafe.
Management stonewalled negotiations for 10 months (the contract expired last June), refusing to bargain seriously over drivers’ demands for safe shifts and fair discipline procedures and even demanding to lengthen the “normal” working day from a 12.5-hour spread to 13.5.
“We have been swallowing this pain for the last 10 years. We cannot live in this hostile environment,” said driver Noor Ibrahim.SUPPORT COMMITTEE
From the relationships built in the previous contract campaign, supporters knew the drivers were ready to make a fight. That confidence inspired community members and labor activists to form an energetic Committee to Support the CCTA Bus Drivers.
The Committee made driver fatigue and public safety the issue. Driver Rob Slingerland promised, “We will not let the public down by driving under unsafe conditions. Driver fatigue is a leading factor in accidents in the transit industry.”
The Committee coordinated dropping 5,000 leaflets door to door and on buses the weekend before the strike, put out 500 lawn signs paid for by the AFL-CIO, scheduled “Invite a Driver” informational meetings, set up public forums, spoke out at CCTA commissioners meetings, organized rallies, marches, and daily pickets with up to 200 participants, and produced press releases, radio shows, video, and social media.
There was no discussion of the drivers’ issues on the Teamster Local 597 website or in Teamster press statements. The local’s top official even asked other unions not to publicly comment about the dispute, and especially not to mention public safety. But drivers maintained their own website, and supporters created a Facebook page, issued press releases, and made their own video.
CCTA and corporate-friendly politicians tried unsuccessfully to whip up public resentment against “greedy union drivers,” but the driver-community alliance managed instead to put “predatory management” on trial.HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MARCH
On the strike’s first day, Burlington High School students, usually dependent on the buses to get to school, turned out on the picket line and then marched miles, accompanied by their bus drivers, to school.
A good list of Burlington-area unions took the initiative to support the drivers on the picket lines, with solidarity statements, and with funds, although Teamsters 597 officials had not authorized support. These included nurses, state employees, university professors, teachers, United Electrical Workers, and the Vermont Workers’ Center.
Soon they were joined by every vital element in the Vermont labor movement, student and environmental groups, the Vermont Progressive Party, and ultimately… Local 597, which organized the picket lines and paid out strike benefits.POLITICAL INTERFERENCE
Eight of the 14 members of Burlington’s City Council co-sponsored a resolution calling for binding arbitration—which at first confused many people. While the union rejected binding arbitration, it fell to the nurses’ union to issue a statement explaining why this was a strikebreaking maneuver.
When 150 chanting drivers and supporters packed the council’s March 26 meeting, the council retracted its call for binding arbitration and instead created a committee to review management’s labor practices.
Entering the third week on strike, union negotiators presented another “last best offer” from management, which drivers voted down 62- 0.
Finally, CCTA agreed to limit monitoring and unfair discipline, reduce forced overtime to 13.5 hours a day instead of 15, and maintain drivers’ split shifts at the current 12.5 hours. Though drivers conceded an increase from 13 to 15 part-time drivers, language prevents CCTA from using retirement or termination to reduce the entire bargaining unit slowly to part-time status.
In the aftermath, the “troublemakers wing” of the Vermont labor movement is growing. A citizens group that includes drivers, Vermonters United for Public Transportation, has started up, with a focus on both optimal working conditions for drivers and better transportation options for citizens.
The support committee has transformed itself into an ongoing Solidarity Committee and is planning a Labor Notes Troublemakers School to continue to build new leaders.
Ellen David Friedman is a retired organizer for Vermont NEA and a member of the Labor Notes Policy Committee.
Issues: Bus Drivers
Leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are asking YRC shareholders to vote against a number of proposals concerning executive compensation at YRC Worldwide Inc.
The Kansas City Business Journalobtained a letter dated April 4 addressed to YRC shareholders and signed by Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters. On behalf of the union, the letter asks shareholders to withhold support for Michael Kneeland, Matthew Doheny and James Hoffman serving on the board's Compensation Committee, to vote against a proposal approving executive compensation and to vote against a proposal that would endorse YRC's amended and restated 2011 incentive and equity award plan.
Click here to read more at the Kansas City Business Journal.Issues: Freight
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited several critical freight corridors during an eight-state bus tour last week, saying the future sustainability of America’s roadways depends on Congress addressing the infrastructure funding crisis.
The tour, which began April 14 in Ohio and ended April 18 in Texas, highlighted short- and long-term funding needs, as well as generated pressure on federal lawmakers from local officials and commuters.
“I’m traveling across the country all week to highlight projects like this that show the difference we can make if we invest in America and commit to the future — because just fixing what we have today isn’t going to help us meet the transportation needs of the future,” Foxx said in Ohio.In Nashville, Tenn., the secretary stood under a congested Charlotte Avenue Bridge, which the city had to close three times last summer because of structural deterioration.
With a federal funding plan in place, “We’ll actually put more money into infrastructure so that we can repair more bridges and build new capacity and help fast-growing areas like Nashville have the assets they need,” Foxx said.
Dave Manning, president of Tennessee Express Inc. and a vice chairman of American Trucking Associations, was among those appearing with Foxx in Nashville.
“This funding crisis can be averted if both Congress and the administration will raise the federal fuel tax and index it going forward,” Manning said.
Manning told Transport Topics afterward that Foxx made a compelling case for infrastructure investment.
“He does a good job of personalizing the pay-it-forward thing — that our parents and grandparents have made sacrifices for us that we enjoy today and we’re not doing the same thing for the next generation,” Manning said.
The U.S. DOT said that if federal dollars were available, rehabilitation work could start on the 1960s-era bridge as well as on five other bridges that connect Nashville’s Interstate 40 Inner Loop.
Tennessee Transportation Commissioner John Schroer, standing by Foxx, said: “If we don’t get funding, the only thing that we we’ll be able to do at the state level is maintain our existing infrastructure.”
Earlier in the week, Foxx visited a $28.8 million project in Columbus, Ohio, the Pickaway County Connector that will connect U.S. 23 and the Rickenbacker Intermodal Facility.
Then, in nearby Dayton, Foxx viewed the work upgrading Interstate 75, a heavily traveled freight route that intersects with Interstate 70.
Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express in Dayton and an ATA vice chairman, was at the event and reported that the secretary emphasized that infrastructure investment is related to highway safety and economic growth.
“He even mentioned truckers in the discussion,” Burch told TT, “saying that more trucks would be needed because the economy is picking up and we need better roads and [need to address] the congestion issues, the safety issues.”“From that standpoint, I think he did a pretty good job on it, though when it came to the funding part, he just didn’t seem to catch it,” said Burch, referring to Foxx not backing higher fuel taxes.
ATA, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups, has said Congress should raise federal fuel taxes and index them to inflation.
But Foxx touted President Obama’s four-year, $302 billion plan to raise money for transportation through tax code changes that include repatriating money held overseas by American corporations to avoid paying taxes.
The country faces two transportation funding crises, the immediate one in the Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to be in the red in August when payment obligations will exceed revenue from the 18.4-cent gasoline tax and the 24.4-cent diesel tax.
The second crisis is MAP-21, the existing transportation funding law, which expires Sept. 30 with it remaining unclear if Congress can agree on a new measure.
In Louisville, Ky., Foxx warned that gridlock in Congress threatens critical transportation projects dependent on the continued flow of federal dollars.
“Part of what we want to do is highlight the fact that highways, transit, all of it is a partnership between states, local government and the federal government,” Foxx said in Louisville.
Kentucky and Ohio, with anticipated federal funds, are rebuilding two aged bridges over the Ohio River that carry traffic in and out of Louisville.
While in Louisville, Foxx also visited UPS Worldport to tour the facility and meet with Scott Davis, UPS chairman and CEO, and other business leaders.
Later, on his blog, Foxx said of the meeting: “What they made clear to me is the scope of the challenge we’re facing when it comes to transportation in America.
“By 2050, we’re going to have to haul an additional 14 billion tons of freight around this country,” Foxx wrote.
During the trip, Foxx also made stops in Atlanta, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Dallas.
Staff Reporter Eugene Mulero contributed to this story.Issues: Freight
We in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been approached by a group of hundreds of people currently incarcerated in Alabama who are launching a nonviolent prison strike beginning this Sunday April 20th to demand an end to slave labor, the massive overcrowding and horrifying health and human rights violations found in Alabama Prisons, and the passage of legislation they have drafted.
This is the second peaceful and nonviolent protest initiated by the brave men and women of the Free Alabama Movement (F.A.M.) this year building on the recent Hunger Strikes in Pelican Bay and the Georgia Prison Strike in 2010. They aim to build a mass movement inside and outside of prisons to earn their freedom, and end the racist, capitalist system of mass incarceration called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and others. The Free Alabama Movement is waging a non-violent and peaceful protest for their civil, economic, and human rights.
The American workforce might want to pay attention to all those brown trucks full of cardboard boxes. UPS is using technology in ways that may soon be common throughout the economy.
On the surface, UPS trucks look the same as they did more than 20 years ago, when Bill Earle started driving for the company in rural Pennsylvania.
But underneath the surface, Earle says, the job has changed a lot. The thing you sign your name on when the UPS guy gives you a package used to be a piece of paper. Now it's a computer that tells Earle everything he needs to know.
The computer doesn't just give advice. It gathers data all day long. Earle's truck is also full of sensors that record to the second when he opens or closes the door behind him, buckles his seat belt and when he starts the truck.
Technology means that no matter what kind of job you have — even if you're alone in a truck on an empty road — your company can now measure everything you do.
In Earle's case, those measurements go into a little black box in the back of his truck. At the end of the day, the data get sent to Paramus, N.J., where computers crunch through the data from UPS trucks across the country.
"The data are about as important as the package for us," says Jack Levis, who's in charge of the UPS data. It's his job to think about small amounts of time and large amounts of money.
"Just one minute per driver per day over the course of a year adds up to $14.5 million," Levis says.
His team figured out that opening a door with a key was slowing their drivers down. So drivers were given a push-button key fob that attaches to a belt loop.
The team figured out how to use sensors in the truck to predict when a part is about to break.
And UPS solved a problem that Bill Earle and other drivers used to have: At the end of the day, there would be a package in the back of the truck that should have been delivered hours before.
"You want to cry 'cause you have to go back," Earle says.
A computer now figures out the best way to load the truck in the morning, and the best way to deliver packages all day.
Earle says a typical day for him used to be around 90 deliveries — now it's about 120.
When you hear people talk about technology increasing workers' productivity, this is what they're talking about: same guy, same truck — lots more deliveries.
In the long run, as workers have gotten more productive, their pay has gone up. UPS drivers today make about twice what they made in the mid '90s when you add up their wages, health care and pensions, according to the head of their union.
But Earle says there is another side of driving around a truck full of sensors: "You know, it does feel like big brother."
Take, for example, backing up. For safety reasons, UPS doesn't like it when their drivers back up too much.
"They know exactly how many times you're backing up," Earle says, "where you're backing up, and they also know the distance and the speed that you're backing at."
Every day, Earle says, the company lets drivers know if they are backing up too much.
"You can't let it feel like it's an attack on your own personal, the way you've been doing the job," Earle says. "You can't look at it that way 'cause you'll get so frustrated that you won't even want to do it anymore."
Jack Levis, the UPS data guy, says the data are just a new way to figure out how to do things better, and faster. And, he says, the drivers benefit from that along with the company.
"They're the highest paid in the business, which is why my job is to keep them productive so they remain the highest paid in the industry."
Still, issues over the data the company collects have become part of the bargaining process between the drivers' union and the company. Under the drivers' contract, the company cannot discipline drivers based solely on data, and can't collect data without telling them.
This kind of back and forth — about what kind of data companies can collect, and what they can do with it — isn't limited to UPS. It's going to start popping up for more and more workers and more and more companies.Issues: UPS
April 15, 2014: The Central States Pension third quarter 2013 financial report shows that assets increased to $18.2 billion, due to the run-up of the stock market last year.
The fund made 12.2% return on investment for the first nine months of 2013, which explains the growth in assets. The report indicates that the fund has 63,000 active participants and 210,000 retirees.
This information is contained in the Financial and Analytical Report and the Independent Special Counsel Report for the 3rd quarter of 2013. No year-end report is yet available. TDU will make it available to members as soon as it issues.
The report reveals that the Teamster Union’s appointed Trustees to the Central States Board are supporting legislation to allow the fund to cut the pensions of existing retirees and Teamsters who have earned their pensions (see pgs 4-5 of the Independent Special Counsel Report).
We call upon the union trustees, who are 50% of the board, to reverse that stand and defend our pensions. The pension fund should be in the forefront of mobilizing the power of our union to defend pensions, not waving the white flag.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union, AARP, the Pension Rights Center, various unions, and also the International Union are against this proposed legislation. We are working to create positive alternatives, before resorting to slashing the pensions of retirees. Our goal is to kill this legislation and work with allies for better alternatives, and to build a movement to defend pensions.
The Teamsters Union could put thousands of retirees and Teamsters on the streets in Washington, and broaden the issues to defend pensions in this country that are under corporate attack.
If you want to learn more or join the movement to defend pensions, click here.
The Financial and Analytical Report also details the finances of the Central States Health and Welfare Fund, which is in healthy shape and operating in the black. It now has 20 months of reserves on hand. It has 82,500 active participants and 8,400 retirees.Issues: Pension and Benefits
New York TDU Bowl-a-Thon
Saturday, May 3, 2014
AMF 34th Avenue Lanes, Queens, NY
The New York TDU Chapter is hosting a Bowl-a-Thon to build solidarity and raise funds for rank-and-file reform and grassroots union democracy.
Click here to find out how you can participate and help make this event a success.Issues: NY-NJ TDU
The pensions of millions of Americans are being threatened because of trouble in a part of the retirement world long considered so safe that no one gave it a second thought.
The pensions belong to people in multiemployer plans — big pooled investment funds with many sponsoring companies and a union. Multiemployer pensions are not only backed by federal insurance, but they also were thought to be even more secure than single-company pensions because when one company in a multiemployer pool failed, the others were required to pick up its “orphaned” retirees.
Today, however, the aging of the work force, the decline of unions, deregulation and two big stock crashes have taken a grievous toll on multiemployer pensions, which cover 10 million Americans. Dozens of multiemployer plans have already failed, and some giant ones are teetering — including, notably, the Teamsters’ Central States pension plan, with more than 400,000 members.
In February, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal multiemployer insurer would run out of money in seven years, which would leave retirees in failed plans with nothing.
“Unless Congress acts — and acts very soon — many plans will fail, more than one million people will lose their pensions, and thousands of small businesses will be handed bills they can’t pay,” said Joshua Gotbaum, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal insurer that pays benefits to people whose company pension plans fail.
“If Congress allows the P.B.G.C. to get the money and the authority it needs to do its job, then these plans can be preserved,” he added. “If not, the P.B.G.C. will run out of money, too, and multiemployer pensioners will get virtually nothing. This is not something that can wait a few years. If people kick the can down the road, they’ll find it went off a cliff.”
So far, efforts to keep multiemployer plans from toppling, and taking the federal insurance program down with them, are giving rise to something that was supposed to have been outlawed 40 years ago: cuts in benefits that workers have already earned.
For example, after Carol Cascio’s husband died of a heart attack at 52, the pension office of his union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, told her his 33 years as a supermarket meat manager had earned her a widow’s pension of $402.31 a month for life. It would start in three years, on what would have been his 55th birthday.
She waited, but just before her first payment should have come, she received a letter instead saying that the pension plan had been “terminated by mass withdrawal” and that she would receive nothing.
“Now I’m in a real pickle,” said Ms. Cascio, 62, a stay-at-home mother in Brooklyn who had already borrowed against the promised pension to pay for her daughter’s education. “I have no one. I have a mortgage on my house. I have my daughter. How do you do this to someone?”
“Only a few years ago, it would have been inconceivable that anyone would have their benefits reduced,” said Karen W. Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center, a watchdog group in Washington. “The law hasn’t caught up with what’s happening here.”
The law she was referring to is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa, the landmark federal employee-benefits law enacted in 1974. It contains a well-established provision known as the anticutback rule, which holds that companies can freeze their pension plans at will, stopping their workers from building up any additional benefits, but they cannot renege on benefits their workers have earned through work already performed.
In the multiemployer world, the anticutback rule was amended in 2006, permitting the weakest plans to stop paying certain benefits to people who had not yet retired, including disability stipends, lump-sum distributions, recent pension increases, death benefits and early retirement benefits. The goal was to help those plans conserve their money while they try to rehabilitate themselves. Experts say the measures have helped, but some multiemployer plans may still fail if they cannot cut payments to retirees as well.
Ms. Cascio’s pension turned out to be in a category subject to cutting: pensions for widows whose husbands died before retirement. They must be cut if their plans have fallen to “critical status,” defined as having less than 65 cents for every dollar of benefits they owe. That is supposed to save money so the plan can keep on paying other retirees their “nonforfeitable benefits” while it negotiates bigger contributions from participating companies, or tries to attract new companies into the pool.
That could not happen in Ms. Cascio’s case. A few months before her husband died, all the supermarkets in his plan decided to disband the pool. He told her not to worry. Each company was making a final contribution to what is known as a “wasting trust,” which would have enough money to pay everyone’s pensions for the rest of their lives. Then the stock market crashed in 2008. Much of the money in the pool melted away, and there was no one left to turn to for more.
Her house, in Gerritsen Beach, was flooded by Hurricane Sandy, and she scraped along for eight weeks that winter without heat, electricity or hot water. Some days, she sat for hours on a city bus, just to keep warm.
Congress made the multiemployer insurance much less comprehensive than the single-employer version because multiemployer plans were supposedly so safe they did not need much insurance.
The P.B.G.C. is supposed to be self-supporting, financing its operations with premiums paid by companies rather than tax dollars. Its single-employer program has the power to take over company pension funds before they run out of money so the assets can be used to help defray the costs. But the multiemployer program must wait until a failing plan’s investments are exhausted, so it gets nothing but bills. It now has premiums of about $110 million a year to work with. All it would take is the failure of one big plan to wipe out the whole program.
The Central States plan, for example, pays $2.8 billion a year to retirees but takes in only about $700 million from employers. It must rely on investment returns to keep from exhausting its assets, but Thomas C. Nyhan, director of the pension plan, said it would take returns of at least 12 percent a year, every year, to come out even, and that is not realistic. Its modeling suggests it will run out of money in 10 to 15 years — most likely around 2026, if nothing is done.
Labor officials, business groups, members of Congress and others have been quietly discussing a proposal to extend multiemployer plans’ life spans by letting them roll back even retirees’ pensions. Such plans are often found in mature sectors, in which retirees outnumber active workers and cuts affecting only the existing workers do not produce enough of a saving as a result. And once a multiemployer plan gets to that stage, officials have discovered, new companies will not join the pool, because they do not want to be stuck paying for extinct companies’ orphaned retirees.
“Arithmetic is going to trump everything here,” said Mr. Nyhan of the Central States plan, which has about five retirees for every current driver.
The Central States plan achieved lasting notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s, when it was run as a virtual bank for organized crime; even today, it still operates under federal court supervision. But today its problems are radically different. First, it lost so much money in the dot-com rout that its supervising judge gave permission to start reducing some benefits as early as 2003. Then, in 2007, it lost its biggest company, United Parcel Service, which paid $6.1 billion to leave the pool. The payment was supposed to cover U.P.S.’s share of the plan’s total shortfall forever, but the shortfall grew by billions of dollars in 2008, when the market crashed and U.P.S. was no longer around to help.
That left a much bigger shortfall to be divided among a smaller pool of employers. George Kerver found that out the hard way. He is president of Fastdecks, a company near Detroit that makes big concrete beams and pillars for construction sites. For years, Fastdecks had one part-time Teamster on the payroll, earning a small pension from Central States. But business slowed to a creep, and in 2011 the lone Teamster resigned, saying he needed a job with more hours.
By law, that meant Fastdecks had to pay a withdrawal liability, just as U.P.S. did. But by 2011 the math was worse. Fastdecks received a bill for $465,774, its pro rata share of the fund’s enlarged $22 billion shortfall.
“We didn’t think we should have to pay it, because we weren’t planning on leaving the union,” Mr. Kerver said, noting that he started as a laborer at Fastdecks 37 years ago and still employs union carpenters and laborers. His lawyers told him if he did not pay, the bill would snowball by accruing penalties and interest.
“What are we supposed to do?” he said. “That was our retirement. Now we owe everything to the Teamster fund.” Bankruptcy was not an option, so he arranged a 20-year payment plan with Central States.
“They lost a union company,” he said, “because we’re never going to have another Teamster again.”Issues: Pension and Benefits
At 6am on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, 40 bus drivers and a dozen community members defied negative-10-degree weather to picket outside the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) bus garage in Burlington, Vt. The action marked the beginning of nearly three-week-long transit strike over concessionary contract demands that would capture the imagination of much of Vermont and culminate in victory.
“Management misjudged us,” said CCTA driver Jim Fouts, speaking to In These Times from the impromptu victory rally on April 3. “We don’t drive together, we don’t have a lunch room to eat together,” said Fouts. But on the picket line, he says, “we turned into icicles together and we started to get to know one another.”
After months of failed negotiations and working without a contract since June 30 of last year,drivers voted 54-0 on March 12th to reject CCTA management’s final contract offer. Drivers could not stomach monitoring and disciplinary procedures that they saw as “abusive," such as being tailed by supervisors, reviewed via bus videotapes, and suspension of as long as a month. The added demand that drivers work eight hours over the course of an exhausting 13.5-hour “split shift,” which could be extended through forced overtime to 15 hours, sparked concerns among bus drivers and community members that CCTA management’s demands risked“community safety.”A new generation of strikers
St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Monday, a school day, and the temperature was negative 5 degrees, but at 7a.m., a steady stream of parents dropped off their students to march the picket line. Seventy-one Burlington High School (BHS) students walked the proverbial mile in another’s shoes, shoulder to shoulder with their bus drivers in a show of solidarity that harkens back to a much older, bolder labor movement. The students accompanied the bus drivers every foot of the circuitous 2.3-mile bus route from the Cherry Street picket line to the front office of the high school, where administrators greeted the students with applause and excused absences. The handmade signs students carried would paper the lobby for the duration of the strike.
“This is Vermont, and even record cold temperatures cannot keep us away from supporting the workers of our state,” says Sabine Rogers, a senior at BHS. “Students showed how much they support fair working conditions and how much they support the work that you bus drivers do each and every day.”
“As we started to walk, we went from a fairly quiet group to chanting with a bullhorn and really getting into it,” says BHS senior Henry Prine. “One quiet student told me he doesn’t like loud noises or large crowd, but it was such an incredible experience. He fell in love with organizing in that moment.”
Prine detailed the prefigurative movement-building BHS students did before the strike. Through his student delegate position on the school board, Prine convinced the body to pass a resolution stating the school district would not hire scab bus drivers to cross picket lines. Prine says that as negotiations broke down and a strike appeared imminent, he began talking with other seniors ("and underclassmen too") about ways BHS students could take an even more powerful public stand. The students drafted a petition calling on CCTA management to meet the drivers’ demands, and Mayor Weinberger and the Burlington City Council to support the bus drivers.” According to Prine, the petition drew more than 500 signatures in one day’s time. “That’s more signatures than people get to keep the hockey program,” he says.
This petition would be presented to Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger in a March 10 City Council meeting by ten BHS student organizers. Weinberger and his City Council allies had earned a reputation as anti-labor for gutting Burlington’s Livable Wage Ordinance despite popular support for policies to reduce the growing disparity of wealth.
Rogers, motivated by her experience on the strike line, would build out a student carpool in solidarity with drivers, using some dusty ward maps to collectivize students’ overlapping routes to school. In the strike’s final week, students organized teachers to host bus drivers in their classes. Striking drivers presented labor history and origin story of their job action to 80 students in four classes in the three days leading up to the strike settlement.
Rogers believes the experience transformed a culture of alienation at her school. “The solidarity and community and sense of activism that has been such a big player in this whole past few weeks—I definitely see that continuing as part of the atmosphere at BHS,” she says.‘This is the movement of the people’
Nine days into the strike, the drivers would face a massively heavy lift. With the backing of Mayor Weinberger, eight of the 14 members of Burlington's City Council co-sponsored a resolution calling for the contract negotiations to enter “binding arbitration.”
According to a statement in responde to the resultion by the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Healthcare Professionals (a local of AFT Vermont), binding arbitration decreases the likelihood of a favorable outcome for workers and communities by placing “all decision-making in the hands of a third party, someone with no relationship to the workplace or community directly affected by his or her decision” and who is not accountable for the results.
To speak against binding arbitration, 150 drivers and supporters marched upon the City Council's March 26 meeting, chanting “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union!" After they filed into the chamber, City Council President Joan Shannon informed the crowd that the customary public comment period at the beginning of the meeting would be delayed by a special executive session. At that point, the entire driver solidarity march assembled outside the chamber door and unleashed perhaps the most boisterous rally City Hall has ever seen.
The hallway and steps leading to City Hall’s second floor and the Mayor’s office were suffused with swelling throng of students, members of United Electric (UE), the Vermont Workers’ Center, the Vermont State Employees Association, Vermont National Education Assocaition (Vermont NEA), the newly formed Vermont Homecare United (a local of ASFCME) and many bus drivers. Loud applause and chants of "What do we want? Fair Contract! When do we want it? Now!" resounded in hallway’s marble and into the City Council chamber in a scene many would compare to the 2011 occupation of the Wisconsin Capitol by pro-union protesters.
"Where is the freedom? Where is the chance?” bus driver Noor Ibrahim, an immigrant from Somalia, asked the impromptu rally. “I was told there is a chance here in this country. Where is the right of the poor people? [CCTA management] are misusing the money of the taxpayers. From now on we have this strike as experience, we don’t need to back down.”
Noor detailed how three years ago his wife was pregnant and “the doctor said the baby wasn’t moving.” He set up an appointment on his day off so he could support his wife, even filling out the vacation paperwork as an extra precaution. Less than 24 hours before the appointment, he said, CCTA’s management told him he would have to work. “When I asked them, they said ‘We don’t care about you, we don’t care about your family all we care about is the bus moving,’ " said Noor.
As drivers continued telling personal stories like these and the raucous rally spilled over intopublic comment, two of the eight resolution sponsors, Karen Paul and Tom Ayres, pulled their names off. Councilor Paul was evidently moved by the driver’s stories; she introduced a successful amendment to “remove the resolution from the agenda” entirely, adding, “I’ve learned a great deal tonight. If we go forward with the agenda, I’ll remove my name from the resolution.” By the council meeting’s denouement, the focus had shifted from binding arbitration to a discussion led by progressive councilors of whether or not to sanction CCTA management.
“This is the movement of the people,” Nigerian CCTA driver Ade Fajobi told In These Times. “The voice of everybody changed the votes of City Council.”‘Every step you take on your picket line is our step’
On Saturday, March 29, the 12th day of the strike, an all-night, 18-hour negotiation session broke down, yet again, over CCTA management’s demand to increase drivers’ split-shifts 12.5 to 13.5 hours. “They basically tossed the same pile of dung back in our faces,” said Jim Fouts. In response, hundreds of supporters gathered at Burlington City Hall, beneath a 12-foot wide bright blue banner reading “Work With Dignity” and “Fair Contract Now.” A massive University of Vermont (UVM) feeder march and brass band joined, and Vermont residents lent their voices to the drivers’ cause.
“By using your right to strike, you're creating a stronger movement of workers,” said Amy Lester, a member of Vermont NEA and the vice-president of the Vermont Workers’ Center. “Your strength is our strength. Your courage is our courage. Your momentum is our momentum. Every step you take on your picket line is our step. We all have your back, keep fighting and don’t give up.”
To loud applause, FaRied Munarsyah, a Workers’ Center member and 20-year CCTA rider, called for “temporary replacement managers.” Michelle Gałecki of UVM’s Student Climate Culture said, “Livable jobs and public transportation is a green issue, but it’s also a human rights issue.”
“We have been swallowing this pain for the last ten years,” said Noor Ibrahim, from the steps of City Hall, with dozens of CCTA bus drivers behind him. “We cannot live in this hostile environment. We deserve respect.”
Just days later, after threatening picket line-crossing scab drivers, CCTA management would finally capitulate. CCTA agreed to a contract with language limiting monitoring and discipline, reducing "forced overtime" to 13.5 hours a day instead of 15, and maintaining drivers’ split shifts at the current 12.5 hours. Though drivers conceded an increase from 13 to 15 part-time drivers, the union was able to win language preventing CCTA from using retirement or termination to reduce the entire bargaining unit slowly to part-time status. On April 3, inside the local VFW’s Eddie Laplant ballroom, drivers voted 53-6 to adopt the new contract.A growing movement for work with dignity
According to James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers Center, "In the current context of the attack on public transit, the public sector and the labor movement nationally, this is a tremendous victory for work with dignity that benefits all working people in the long haul.”
Indeed, the solidarity unionism that blossomed in Vermont’s late-winter snow could be—like the Chicago Teachers Union, Portland Teachers Union or Boeing Machinists—another harbinger of rebirth for rank-and-file reform movements buttressed by community solidarity.
The successful 18-day job action “really shows what happens when a few people speak out and continue to speak out towards a common goal of having a strong union,” said driver Jim Fouts in the bus terminal, in the afterglow of the victory celebration. “When I first came here the union was weak, because it was a business-as-usual union. Then some activists started saying, ‘This is wrong. We can vote on things. This is supposed to be a democracy.’ And really it was a bottom up movement to change our union.”
According to former drivers Chuck Norris-Brown and Scott Ranney, a reform caucus with the local solidified over breakfasts in local restaurants in the spring of 2009, around a petition circulated amongst drivers that helped win stewards elected by drivers, not merely appointed by Teamsters higher-ups. The caucus, nicknamed the Sunday Breakfast Club, soon began coordinating with Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a national, independent rank-and-file movement within the Teamsters. In 2011 contract negotiations, Breakfast Club members did the shopfloor organizing and the local outreach to community members and other unions to build public support. "A seed was sown which kept the Teamster Local to the grindstone, and almost all of the community action that resulted in major support for the recent drivers strike was based on earlier Sunday Breakfast Club contacts and strategies," says Ranney, who also believes the caucus empowered rank-and-file members and paved the way for the unanimous rejection of the concessionary contract.
Tearing up, Fouts describes how Local 597 followed the advice of a Labor Notes organizer Ellen David Freidman, to build power and beat back concessions: “ ‘Turn enemies into neutrals, you turn neutrals into activists and you turn activists into leaders,’ ” he quotes. “That’s what we did.”
"We won this fair contract because of our unity and the tremendous support from our community,” says Rob Slingerland, CCTA bus driver and spokesperson for the drivers.
Many drivers, even in the midst of the victory party, said they’d already begun reciprocating the solidarity unionism they experienced from other unions during their strikes. “We were talking about solidarity with other unions before we even went over our contract today,” says Slingerland. He says that drivers have already volunteered to join marches on the boss at Vermont's HowardCenter, a counseling and medical-services center where workers are in the process of unionizing with AFSCME. “We got the help and now we’ve got to give the help," he says. "Vermont is so small, but this movement is so big."
Slingerland described an “umbrella of fear,” his co-workers used to work under and how the victorious strike changed workplace power relations and gave drivers a sense of dignity. “A lot of drivers have discovered the power that they have within as a person,” said Slingerland, “you put that together as a group and you end where we are today, with a victory.”Issues: Bus Drivers
At this time the Citizens Co-op Workers Union is asking all supportive Co-op Members and Concerned Community Members to call and email management to express your feelings, comments and questions about the unfair labor practices and termination of 5 union workers. We want your voices heard and for you to hear the explanations for their actions!
A California state agency has ruled that seven drivers for Pacer International Inc. who challenged their status as independent contractors can collect $2.21 million.
The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement ruled the drivers were company employees, rather than independent contractors. Pacer, which recently became part of XPO Logistics, has filed a notice of appeal.
The case is the latest development in an ongoing battle over the status of truck drivers, who are independent contractors from the carriers’ standpoint.
Don Minchey, the hearing officer in the case, wrote “the plaintiffs are convincing in their arguments.”
Drivers’ independent contractor status is being challenged by union organizers, in Southern California and other locations, who are seeking employee status so that organizing campaigns can advance.
“We are aware of the rulings by the administrative hearing officer in the seven claims,” an XPO spokesman told Transport Topics. “These cases are ongoing and we have appealed the rulings to California Superior Court. We intend to vigorously oppose these claims, which we believe are without merit.”Issues: Freight
In the wake of a relentless grassroots labor-community solidarity campaign, UPS waved the white flag and agreed to rehire all 250 New York City drivers the company fired last month. The campaign united drivers, elected officials, and even UPS customers.
UPS issued termination notices to 250 drivers in March for a 90-minute work stoppage they had carried out on February 26.
Jairo Reyes, a 24-year driver, had been fired for starting work too early, and was walked off the job. This violated the Teamsters’ contract, which called for a 72-hour waiting period and a hearing before a worker could be walked off.
Drivers gathered in the parking lot to show their displeasure. “Our contract had been violated so many times,” Reyes told Labor Notes. “This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Reyes will also return to work, under the terms of the agreement struck between UPS andTeamsters Local 804 yesterday.
UPS had previously vowed never to back down. The company refused to negotiate with Local 804 and told the press it would boot all 250 drivers as soon as replacements were trained.
At first management seemed to make good on that threat. The first 20 workers were fired on March 31, at the end of their last work day of the month so that they and their families would lose their April health care coverage.
Four days later, UPS fired 16 more drivers as their local president prepared to take the stage to speak at the Labor Notes Conference.
But just five days after that, UPS executives from company headquarters in Atlanta were at the table and striking an agreement with the union to return all 250 drivers to work.What Made Brown Back Down?
Immediately after the walkout, Local 804 leaders met with the company to try to settle the dispute. Managers shut down the talks after minutes and said they were issuing termination notices to all 250 drivers.
So Local 804 launched a grassroots campaign to mobilize public support. First, the union mobilized its own ranks. Stewards and union activists passed out bulletins and petitions to show Teamster solidarity.
But the outreach quickly spread to the public in the form of an online petition launched by the Working Families Party (WFP), a grassroots political party of affiliated unions and community groups, including Teamsters Joint Council 16 in New York.
Local 804 members rallied on March 21 in front of the UPS hub in Maspeth, Queens, and delivered more than 105,000 petition signatures to the company. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James and city council members joined the rally. So did Assembly member Michael Simanowitz.
No labor radical, Simanowitz is a moderate Democrat who represents an Orthodox Jewish section of Queens. But he is also a UPS customer. His UPS driver, Domenick “Dedom” Dedomenico, was one of the 250 fired Teamsters—one with a special back story.
Dedom was run over while delivering Christmas packages for UPS. He spent 10 days in a coma and another 13 months recovering from a traumatic brain injury.
When Dedom returned to UPS, he was met with a barrage of warning letters and suspensions for “failing to meet his previous demonstrated performance.”
A supervisor assigned to monitor Dedom for a day reported that customers were slowing him down to welcome him back on the job, and breaking into tears.
Management responded by suspending Dedom and telling him to pick up the pace. Brown’s ultimatum? Deliver one more package per hour or lose your job. Then Dedom became one of the 250 who were issued termination notices.
“He spent a week in a coma, and how does this company repay him when he comes back to work? They fire him because he stood up for his brothers,” said Simanowitz. “This is not over. Dedom is not fired. If he is then I’ll personally lay down in front of that driveway.”
Letitia James grabbed the microphone from Simanowitz and told the rallying Teamsters that UPS had a $43 million contract up for renewal with New York State and, “if UPS does not do right by the workers in this city, then the city will not do right by UPS.”
A hot campaign got a lot hotter. Elected officials began scrutinizing UPS’s financial dealings with the city and state, including a sweetheart deal through the Department of Finance’s stipulated-fine program that cuts UPS’s parking tickets by $15 to $20 million a year.
UPS responded by firing 20 drivers, chosen at random.
Local 804 kicked its campaign up a notch. The union reached out to the press, and the firing of the 250 workers and Dedom, the driver who survived a coma only to be canned by UPS, became tabloid fodder.
Local 804 also reached out to other unions while the Working Families Party galvanized support from elected officials.
On April 3, fired drivers and other Local 804 Teamsters held a press conference on the steps of City Hall with other Teamsters, nurses, bus and train operators from Transport Workers Local 100, members of the Communications Workers and Service Employees 32-BJ, Laborers, and others.
Drivers told their story flanked by more than a dozen elected officials, including Letitia James and City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
"I do not understand who at that company put forward a business plan to take away a generation of good will between UPS and the City of New York," Stringer said. “But this is not gonna end this way.”
UPS axed 16 more drivers the following day.Who Speaks for UPS Customers?
With political pressure and bad PR on the rise, UPS tried to justify the firings as the only responsible business decision.
“We simply cannot allow employee misconduct that jeopardizes our ability to reliably serve our customers,” UPS told the press.
One executive told the Daily News that UPS was firing 250 drivers because “we believe we owe it to our customers.”
The union decided to put the question directly to those customers.
Fired drivers launched a customer outreach campaign. They retraced their routes, passed out leaflets, and talked with customers. Customers posed for photos with the fired drivers with signs that said, "What Can Brown Do for Me? Not This" and "Rehire This Guy."
Steve Curcio was one of the original 20 firees who reached out to customers on his mixed commercial and residential route. “We were going out to customers on the route and asking their honest opinions and reactions to why we were missing,” he said. “Everyone misses their guy, this guy is here every single day. They don't want their business being disrupted.”
Supporters nationwide flooded the corporation with phone calls and bombed the UPS Facebook page.
Customer Lois Toscano from Little Neck called the Local 804 hall to see what she could do. She said her UPS driver—whose name she didn’t know—had once saved her family’s life. As she and her three children drowsily watched TV, Armin Kaeser rang the bell and said, “Mrs. Toscano, I smell gas.”
“At Christmas,” Toscano told the Daily News, “when presents are being delivered, [Kaeser] rings the doorbell first to make sure the kids aren’t around before he hauls everything up to the door.”
Local 804 made a video of customers speaking their minds to UPS. The testimonials were unscripted and heartfelt and shredded the company’s argument that UPS owed the firings to its customers.
“What can Brown do for me? They can give me my driver back,” said Alex Silaco of Tiles Unlimited.
“I know what you mean to my company,” another customer said, “It would be a shame if UPS makes the mistake of letting the drivers go that are important for their customer base.”
Local 804 President Tim Sylvester said the tipping point for the campaign was “customers’ involvement. Management underestimated once again how popular our drivers are with their customers, just like in 1997 [when Teamsters struck for two weeks for full-time jobs].”
Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, the union’s chief negotiator with UPS, had not issued a single public comment or statement of support since February 26—a fact not lost on Local 804 members or union activists at UPS nationwide.
But the day before negotiations with UPS, Hall flew to New York and visited with drivers in Maspeth to offer support to the 250 drivers.
The next day, Local 804 leaders, international union officials, and UPS executives met and hammered out the agreement.
All 250 terminations were reduced to 10-day suspensions. Local 804 will also issue a statement to members outlining the proper union procedures for a walkout.A Teakettle on a Flame
“The buildup of frustration causes people to do things they wouldn't normally do,” Sylvester said. “You can only put a teakettle on a flame for so long before the lid comes off.”
New York drivers were fed up with long hours, increasing production standards, and constant technological surveillance, Sylvester said. Every UPS truck is equipped with more than 200 sensors that monitor drivers' every move, and drivers are expected to follow 72 pages of “methods,” such as hold the keys in your right hand as you approach your vehicle, start the truck and buckle your seat belt in one motion.
Labor Notes asked Curcio if he was surprised his union would do so much. “I expected at least what they did,” he said. “Something of this magnitude, so severe, that touched so many people—something had to be done.”Issues: UPSNY-NJ TDU
Featuring: Way Down in the Hole and The Ludlow Massacre, video documentaries, and comments by union members and Scott Martelle, author of Blood Passion, The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the West.
When: Friday, April 18, 7-10 p.m.
Where: The Mercury Café, 2199 California St., Denver
The Ludlow Massacre from the coal miners’ point of view is the theme of an evening program in central Denver on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre.